Khor Virap Monastery
The monastery Khor Virap was built in Artashat and was never less popular than the city Artashat itself. It became even more popular because of the life and activities of Gregory the Illuminator– the first Catholicos of all Armenians. The story of his suffering and captivity in Khor Virap coincides with the time when Christianity was adopted as the state religion in Armenia. After coming to power in Persia in the third century, the Sassanians came to Armenia, where they met the strong resistance from King Khosrov the Great, who originated from the dynasty of the Armenian branch of the Arsacids. According to historical evidence, King Khosrov was assassinated by Prince Anak, who was Khosrov's distant relative and was sent by the Sassanids. During the escape, Anak was drowned with his brothers in the river Araks and his family was killed. Anak's two sons, one of whom was Grigor (Gregory the Illuminator), remained alive and were taken to Caesarea. Khosrov's only son, Tiridat, grew up in the Roman Empire. As an adult, he returned to Armenia in 287 and expelled the Sassanids from Armenia with the help of Roman and Armenian troops. During those years, Grigor, who had received Christian education in Caesarea, came to serve and preach Christianity in Armenia. According to Armenian historians, Tiridat ordered Grigor to place a wreath on the statue of the goddess Anahit during a pagan rite, which Grigor rejected. This caused the anger of Tiridat, who also learned that Gregory was Anak's son, and ordered to throw him into a deep pit full of snakes, scorpions, and other venomous insects.
In the third century, a group of 300 Christian virgins lived in Rome which was led by the virgin Gayane. During the rule of Diokghetianos (Emperor Diocletian), the virgins were persecuted. They escaped to Armenia in order to avoid the persecution. Being tempted by the beauty of Gayane, one of the virgins, Tiridates wanted to marry her. The virgin rejected and Tiridates was incensed and ordered to kill the virgins. Later, Tiridates lost his sanity. The king's sister, Khosrovadukht, had the same dream several times, making it clear that the king could only be healed by Grigory, who was imprisoned in the pit.The princes were sent to Artashat to see if Grigory was alive, though it seemed absolutely unbelievable that he would stay alive after being imprisoned for thirteen years. To their great surprise, he was alive and they took him to the capital, Vagharshapat, where he granted King Tiridates the absolution. Healed of the disease, Tiridat adopted Christianity. Three and a half centuries later, in the 7th century, a church was built on the spot where Tiridat the Great and Gregory the Illuminator met. The church was called St. Grigory and is also known as Zvartnots. At first, a simple chapel was constructed in the holy place and later a monastery.
In the 13th century, it was an important religious and cultural centre. The monastery had a scriptorium containing more than ten manuscripts preserved today in the Matenadaran Manuscript Museum. The monastery consists of the Church of St. Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God), the Church of St. Gevorg and Khor Virap. The pit is 6 meters deep. And it is believed that Grigory the Illuminator remained alive with the help of a nice woman who secretly gave him daily water and bread through a small hole. The mountain Ararat seems close enough to touch! It rises majestically behind the monastery Khor Virap.